"It's the most un-rock 'n' roll thing you could do, so I never ever talked about it, but that was actually my obsession before rock-and-roll."
-- Bono, on playing chess
We Two Are the Brains Behind U2; Adam and Larry's Back-Seat Role
August 23, 2001
Bono and the Edge have always been the faces of U2 -- but Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen say they are the brains of the band.
And those brains have seen U2 graduate from the school of rock 'n' roll with flying colours.
On Saturday the group will perform to 80,000 fans at the climax of their European tour at Slane Castle.
But looking back, drummer Larry said it was make-or-break time when they re-entered the music world earlier this year. Would they burn up? Or would they touch down in a blaze of glory?
Larry said: "The challenge is to make it happen. A lot of people were saying, 'They're getting a little older, can they still cut it?' So essentially we're playing for our lives -- and the U2 machine is always at its best when that is the case."
Both Larry and Adam have enjoyed an equal share of fame, money and glory even though they often take a back seat to Bono and the Edge when it comes to publicity.
Larry, 39, said: "We always say they are the ones who can sing and we are the brains of the band. We've always said that."
Like Larry, bass player Adam Clayton is equally as confident about U2's ability to stick around at the top of the music world for years to come.
Especially when others are questioning the band's credentials.
Adam, 41, said: "Can I imagine doing this kind of thing in 20 years time? The 60-year-olds on motorbikes tour? Maybe. I don't know if that would be an ambition. I look at every album after Boy as unexpected. But if the question is whether we could still be playing 'Where the Streets Have No Name' or 'I Will Follow' when we're 60, then yes, if we're still committed as a band, which we probably would be."
Adam, who admits to being the least religious member of the line-up, said the group had been overpowered by the sense of spirituality on the Elevation tour.
He added: "I don't quite know what it is -- but I definitely know when it's there. It doesn't happen every night, but some nights there's a sense of community and fellowship. And people have said there's a spiritual aspect to what's been happening at the gigs."
Adam called their arena shows some of the best U2 have ever played.
He explained that stadium concerts lose the "light and shade, the subtlety of the songs. You need to work on a different level."
He added: "The Pop tour was great on many levels, but I think we made a few mistakes along the way. I guess we should have known better. But we didn't give the record long enough for people to get to know it. We didn't introduce people to it in the way that we did this record.
"Touring nowadays you know you don't want to stay up till four o'clock in the morning drinking. It sounds kind of boring, but you really make a lot better use of the day. And there's only so many towns you can do that in anyway. But when you're in a band you can party much longer than anyone else in your generation can. For a start, you don't necessarily have to get up and go to work first thing in the morning."
Adam revealed that U2 wanted to regain contact with fans in Europe which the band felt was missing for the past 10 years.
He said: "In Europe a lot of stadium shows have general admission, in America stadium shows are reserved seating. And you don't necessarily get the most enthusiastic people up the front. You get the people who reserved those seats."
Larry said their biggest fear was never topping Slane.
He added: "I suppose there's a sense it might not get any better. We are going to be performing to all our friends, family and loved ones. It will probably get quite emotional but at the same time we have a job to do. When you get out there everything passes in a bit of a daze and you only appreciate it afterwards. I think we'll really appreciate Slane in 20 years."
© The Mirror, 2001. All rights reserved.